I am 95% finished with cleaning out the kitchen – I have two drawers to go, and they won’t be bad. It was the ones in which nothing had been touched for months, in some cases, years, and around the trashcan under the sink that had me horrified. The mice found those spots irresistibly peaceful and set up homesteads there, so it was a nasty job to tackle. Fortunately the large majority of the heirloom stuff was boxed up so that the mice couldn’t touch it, and I ended up throwing “away” most everything that wasn’t metal or glass and couldn’t be sanitized. I ended up with three big cabinets and five drawers to use for my art supplies. This was a rare instance in which I actually used bleach and a face mask in cleaning the kitchen. I had had it with the procrastination and I was taking my space back.

One of the reasons this made me feel so much better is that the kitchen mess was a result of my struggle with depression. I couldn’t face it – it was overwhelming. I was already using a tiny portion of my kitchen to prepare food because I felt that I could control it and keep it reasonably clean. I got to the point where I hated cooking because the kitchen nagged me that it needed major attention every time I walked in there. I bought prepared foods from the farmers’ market to take to potluck parties.

As a recovering agoraphobic, I realized that I was retreating from spaces in my own house.

Once I got that (and I’m not sure that I totally understood it until just a couple of days ago), I knew that I had to move past it. That is the only way to deal with agoraphobic behavior. So I took it a little at a time until it was done. I feel so much better. I cooked soup this week and I worked in my new studio space. My kitchen space is smaller and manageable. I am not holed up in my bedroom now, although it does still beckon to me. I’ve set up my laptop in the dining room/studio.

That’s the thing with agoraphobia, it will slip up on you if you stop paying attention.

I try to write about my experience with it from time to time, because I think that it is important to talk publicly about mental illness. Agoraphobia is about your personal comfort zone and can take many forms.

To those of you who can relate to this overwhelming anxiety of moving out of a comfort zone, if you haven’t gotten help, I urge you to either find a doctor or therapist who can help you and if you can’t make yourself go, get a friend to take you. Agoraphobia is a behavioral problem, but I was not able to deal with it on my own until I had taken medication for anxiety and depression for a few years. Now I fly and travel all over the world with great pleasure. I wish you the same.